• By: OLM Staff

Steamy Sushi

What’s the key to enduring success? The team at Kinki Restaurant in the ByWard Market should know. They celebrated their 11th anniversary this summer.

Head chef Pablo Robaina, who has been at the helm since last September, and talented sushi chef Amin Takano, present a cuisine that reflects the delightful complexity brought on by fusion through fresh and well-paired ingredients. From pork wontons to ceviche and a multitude of sushi permutations, Kinki offers an eclectic menu. Whether vegetarian or meatslab, plates look artful and invitingly delicious. Kinki’s Sweet Endings dessert menu features surprising items such as Tempura Ice Cream as well as Sorbet for those who are slightly less kinki.

“It’s a place to come as you are and have fun with it,” says Claira Calderone, Accounts & Promotions Manager for Kinki and Mambo restaurants, reflecting on the implications of pushing such a socially-liberal theme in the capital. The name “Kinki” refers to the Kansai region in the southern area of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Kinki or Kansai is known to be Japan’s liveliest region. The idea behind the name is to reflect just that; an enclave of liveliness, where people can enjoy good food and feel at home, no matter their disposition.

And Kinki lives up to its name. A Friday night amble into the restaurant at any time of the year will guarantee sensory stimulation. The atmosphere is a constant point of interest as DJs spin and bamboo shoots up from here and there. You may even catch a pole fitness dancer for entertainment while other times it might a feature burlesque performance. Indeed, the weekly roster at Kinki includes three or four theme nights ranging from crystal ball readings to live jazz performances.

Underneath the feather boas and the artistry of the tasty food, there is a whole world of work behind the scenes. With a staff of 25 and a very central and coveted location on York Street, there is tremendous pressure from the organizational components of the business. “As a restaurant,” says Calderone, “we are somewhat responsible for part of the tourism industry in our city.” That means they have to bring the whole package to the table, every time a customer comes in, and make it all appear effortless. The restaurant industry is already difficult, if only in terms of staffing. Many view this line of work as temporary so there is sometimes a lack of devotion to learning the trade and carrying it out properly. There is the fact that you are feeding people, which requires the utmost obedience to strict discipline and regulations. And, of course, there is the constant public eye that is given an even larger pulpit by the Internet. Adding to all of that, the staff’s mission is twofold, since they have given themselves the mandate of adding entertainment to nourishment for a full epicurean experience. This means that on top of the normal concerns that lie on a restaurateur’s shoulders, there is the added strain of managing artists, performers and service providers vis-à-vis entertainment trends and constantly-changing demands.

Just how does Kinki survive and stay in vogue? “We’re very lucky!,” Calderone sums up. “We know who we are and what we stand for. We see nothing wrong with empowering women to be who they are. We learn from our mistakes and are constantly aware of keeping up the quality of our product. And frankly, we have a great staff and a great clientele, which are the most important aspects of all!” With eleven years, come great stories. There are tales of Ottawans who came to Kinki for a date and continue going there to celebrate their anniversaries and even bring along the children. Everyone is part of the Kinki family.